The Feeder Feed: Federal Holiday and Sing Along Edition

As a Minnesotan and alum of the University of Minnesota, I have long been a fan of the Golden Gophers.

Of course the Golden Gopher is not really a gopher at all, but rather a sort of … and I can hardly bring myself to type this… squirrel.

It is a Thirteen-Stripped Ground Squirrel aka Ictidomys tridecemlineatus formerly known as Spermophilus tridecemlineatus, or else aka Federal Squirrel, so-called because of the number of its stripes.  Get it?  Federal?   Therefore most appropriate for 4 July, don’t you think?

I had never seen one… a real one.  I have seen the Gophers, in particular the Hockey Gophers, often.

Meet Ictidomys tridecemlineatus.  He has been munching under the feeder lately.

Far less troublesome than the other members of the Sciuridae family, this one can remain and munch as much as he likes.

For the others, all I have to say is “Ite, Rodentes!”

And on that note, I will ask you all to learn a song in honor of the Gophers.

“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are surely saying. “Isn’t this the fourth of July?  Should you be more patriotic?  I mean… national…. you know! Well?!?”

I am in a state’s rights mood today.  Sorry.

Here is the Minnesota March, written by John Philip Sousa. I’ll bet your school doesn’t have a march written by Sousa.

CLICK to hear and sing along with the Minnesota March!

RAH! RAH! SKI-U-MAH! RAH! RAH! RAH! [SKI is pronounced like “sky”.  It just is.]

March on, march on to victory!
Loyal sons of the varsity.
Fight on, fight on for Minnesota
For the glory of the old maroon and gold.

March on, march on to win the game,
DOWN THE FIELD! [Or “down the ice” or… “down the …” whatever.] Fighting every play.
We’re with you, team, fighting team,
Hear our song, we cheer along
To help you win a victory!

And now a special edition now of “What Does The Varsity Fight Song Really Say?”

There is a snappy and seemingly conscious rhythm, and even rhymes, which makes this song – a word actually mentioned in the text – singable.  Coincidence?  I think not.  The music was composed for the University of Minnesota by John Phillip Sousa (+1932) and the words were by Michael Jalma, the UofM band director.  The the ripping good yarn of how Sousa was persuaded to write it and how it had its first performance, the fight over the performance, the fight over the manuscript is here.

First, note the exclusion of inclusive language.  “March” and “fight”, not to mention “win” and ”
victory” have a militaristic overtone, to be juxtaposed to “game” and “team”.  This has, I surmise, something to do with strenuous competition in a matter of great importance implying also a collective effort.  The ultimate goal if you’ll pardon the pun, is “glory”.  But do not imagine that this glory is either a) everlasting or b) equally glorious in every game.  Baseball must have a greater glory potential than, for example, football, because baseball is the game most loved by God.

We have to drill a little more at that word “varsity“.  Suffice to say that the word “varsity” is an abbreviated form of “university” preserving an 17th century vowel shift from the e to the a sound, much as varmint is from vermin, … which of course makes this circle complete.

What we take away from this piece is the simple messages, “Play to win” and “Winning is better than losing.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. DebbieInCT says:

    wow, what an adorable fellow, he’s beautiful! God must be blessing your camera and the hands that hold it to get such awesome photographs. Thanks for a wonderful start to this Independence Day!

  2. r.j.sciurus says:

    I think I resemble that remark…

  3. Dear Father Z,
    Your tribute to the “Golden Gophers” and their 13 stripes immediately brought to mind Hopkins’ wonderful poem, “Pied Beauty.” You offered in a previous post to read some Hopkins for us…would you give us the gift of this one?

    Pied Beauty
    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    GLORY be to God for dappled things—
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
    Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

    All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
    He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
    Praise him.

  4. benedetta says:

    Great J P Sousa, an old family favorite!

  5. Patti Day says:

    May God bless America on her birthday.
    May God bless Father Z.
    May God bless the Golden Gophers.
    May God bless everyone here. Amen

  6. irishgirl says:

    Oh, that’s so cool that John Philip Sousa composed a march for your Alma Mater, Father Z! I probably heard the ‘Minnesota March’ more than once on our local classical music station’s morning ‘Sousalarm’ (get it? Snooze alarm?)!
    What a cute little gopher/squirrel/whatever rodent it is! Thirteen stripes-that’s funny AND appropriate for today, our Independence Day!
    And I echo Patti Day’s sentiments, too!

  7. AnAmericanMother says:

    God bless us every one!
    Sousa’s son graduated from my college, but I don’t think he wrote a march for the school. His band did lead the P-rade one year.
    That is really neat to have your very own Sousa march.
    And the ground squirrel is a cute little fellow, but he must be very unlike his fellow rodents to be truly likeable. It’s war to the knife here with squirrels, chipmunks, and roof rats, for my dogs and for me.

  8. irishgirl says:

    AnAmericanMother-JP Sousa’s son graduated from your college? Very cool!
    Do your dogs go after the vermin in your yard? They must have fast reflexes and keen eyesight, because squirrels and ‘chippies’ are very quick and elusive!

  9. digdigby says:

    How tasteless to parody Father Z’s reverent and exacting liturgical commentary! Uh…wait a minute … you are Father Z??? Nevermind.

  10. lgreen515 says:

    Thanks for the Fourth of July chuckle and the golden gopher photo. Love those thirteen stripes. Now, if only the spots were stars….

  11. mezzodiva54 says:

    I do so love these sporting / nature / food digressions, which provide a counterbalance of lightening and “personal-ness” to the more serious and/or edifying sides of this blog. I recall one from last year regarding the “noble Twins of Minnesota”, and being as how they were playing the despised (at least in these environs) Yankees, it was doubly entertaining; I have long suspected that God loved baseball the best, but it is good to see it in print from such an unimpeachable source! I too echo Patti Day: God bless our country on its birthday, and all who dwell within it.

  12. ContraMundum says:

    Excellent. I think similar analyses could be made of most college fight songs; they usually cover more-or-less the same material.

    I suspect that the most unusual aspect of “Yea Alabama!” (I got my bachelor’s degree from UA) might be the line, “If a man starts to weaken, that’s his shame, ….” Somewhat on part with the lame-duck ICEL “translation” of the Mass, from time to time (especially during the Joab Thomas/Bill Curry era) the University has tried to water this down and eliminate the high standard of personal responsibility: “If a man starts to weaken, that’s a shame, ….” Bama fans generally react to this second version like the SSPX reacts to “pro multis” being rendered “for all”.

  13. jlduskey says:

    I am a graduate of Marquette University in Milwaukee, and I want to recall that John Philip Sousa composed the “Marquette University March” and presented it to Marquette at a graduation ceremony in the 1920s when Sousa received an honorary degree from Marquette. You are entirely correct in your comment about this experience we share: It is a great feeling to know that Sousa composed a march specifically for the school you graduated from.
    I have also spent the last 40 years as a Wisconsin Hockey fan. This is certainly not in opposition to the great fans of the Golden Gophers, but more as a shared experience–particularly among our two schools, along with North Dakota, Denver, Colorado College, and Minnesota-Duluth. (These are the six schools that stayed in the WCHA in the early 1980s, after Notre Dame and the Michigan Schools departed for the CCHA.)
    Now that the Big Ten has decided to start its own hockey conference, there has been a lot of discussion and concern about the restructuring of college hockey–particularly about the survival of hockey at many non-Big Ten schools. As you are a Minnesota fan, I would like to hear your opinion on this.

  14. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I went to grad school there but I never heard the march before. We always heard the Gopher Rouser though. Grad students generally keep apart from undergrad stuff so that must be why. We are too tired from staying up all night in the lab watching our fraction collector drip drip drip and the NMR scan scan scan.

    I still have my U of M hat with the fuzzy gold ears.

    I love ground squirrels. The ones in California are huge. A kind of pocket gopher I guess, which we don’t have east of the Mississippi.

    Did you know that On, Wisconsin was originally a Minnesota song?

  15. Banjo: On Wisconsin was originally intended for the University of Minnesota…

    That explains why it is so good.

  16. jlduskey: college hockey–particularly about the survival of hockey at many non-Big Ten schools. As you are a Minnesota fan, I would like to hear your opinion on this.

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    I don’t like the idea. There are some old rivalries in the WCHA and very good hockey. I can’t see how breaking up the WCHA would help at all.

    Booo. Bad idea. Booo.

  17. Emilio III says:

    Today is the 53rd anniversary of Karol Wojtyla’s appointment as auxiliary bishop of Krakow. Today is also the 72nd anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s farewell appearance at Yankee Stadium, who, dying of ALS said “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth”.

  18. RichardT says:

    “baseball is the game most loved by God”

    No, no – surely God watches cricket! God thinks in terms of ages, not minutes; baseball would just be too short.

    Any which game can you more easily imagine being commentated in Latin?

  19. Alice says:

    Yeah, yeah, whatever. Sousa wrote my Alma Mater a march as well. Oskee wow wow!

  20. AnAmericanMother says:

    I love my dogs and yes, they all are very keen on the pursuit of anything foolish enough to enter our yard.
    The canny old (11 yrs) Chocolate Lab is the mighty hunter. She was the runt of her litter and only weighs 38 lbs, but some of her feats are preposterous, wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself. She ran down an adult rabbit, various rodents including a squirrel, and caught a dove as it took flight. At age 10 she detected and flushed a mallard from an 18″, 20 ft long culvert, followed him all the way through and emerged in a cloud of mud and duckweed to retrieve him when my partner shot him. And she once caught a chukar all by herself, by flushing and following him repeatedly until he tired.
    Her two ” sisters” basically follow her lead and act in support, she is the Boss Dog.

  21. Mom2301 says:

    Such a cute little rodent. Alas, no match for a Hawkeye! I believe Floyd of Rosedale has spent more years in the Hawkeye state.

  22. jlduskey says:

    Though I have followed Wisconsin hockey, I tend to regard “On Wisconsin” as simply familiar background music. The actual words to the song are all football-oriented.
    Previous athletic administrations were very sensitive to the situation with hockey–at one time the athletic director was the father of a hockey player. Presently the athletic department seems to be under so much financial pressure that they look toward programming for the BigTen Network and the income it can provide, rather than the overall good of college hockey or the fans’ interests. The problem for us is that the WCHA remains very much together as one of the strongest conferences in college hockey, and Wisconsin and Minnesota are on the outside.
    A quick review of internet sites shows that Sousa wrote 7 or 8 marches for schools: Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Marquette, Kansas State, and “Pride of the Wolverines” which was presented to the city of Detroit, and has been used by Michigan. Sousa also wrote Who’s Who in Navy Blue, a march song dedicated to the United States Naval Academy Class of 1921.

  23. JaneC says:

    Neither my undergrad alma mater (Gonzaga) nor my graduate school (University of Southern California) have fight songs written by Sousa. In fact, Gonzaga didn’t have a unique fight song–they used a generic one–until last year. Their new fight song is quite good, written by one of our music professors who is also an alumnus. I dare say it is destined to become very dear to the ‘Zags, even though the composer is not famous. After all, he is one of our own, not an outsider. :)

  24. AvantiBev says:

    Yum, Northwestern Wildcats love eatin’ those little U of Minn varmints.
    Go Cats! Hail to Purple, Hail to White, Hail to thee Northwestern!

  25. irishgirl says:

    “I bet your [italics] school doesn’t have a march written by Sousa’-Father Z.
    No, my school didn’t….I went to a small business school in my hometown for a nine-month stenographic course (a lot of good that did me), and I think the unofficial school song back in the early 1970s was ‘In Heaven There Is No Beer’! That’s all that most of the students thought of doing!
    I didn’t drink back then-and I still don’t, almost 40 years later.
    AnAmericanMother-I like your ‘dog stories’! I love Labs! Goofy though they might be, but good hunters!

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